More dogs than kennels, it's a packed house at the Missoula County Animal Shelter.

And the number of pets right now depends on how quickly things move along in the court system.

For a litter of pit bull puppies, the shelter is home. They were born at the shelter in May after both their mom and dad were turned in, though not because they were strays.

The tags on their cages say it all -- ‘Confiscated – Cruelty.'

“It puts a strain on the facility,” said Animal Control Supervisor Jeffrey Darrah.

He said it’s the story for about half the dogs in the shelter; pets taken from their homes during animal cruelty investigations. But they can't find a new home, or return to their old homes depending on the outcome, until the cases are resolved.

“We can't adopt them right now as the cases are adjudicated, then we can adopt them out,” Darrah said.

So, for now, the dogs are stuck and pushing the shelter past its capacity. There are 24 kennels in the shelter, but right now there 27 dogs.  A back room, typically reserved for vaccinations and sick pets, is also serving as an overflow area.

“It's kind of sad because a lot of people would like to come in and adopt them,” Darrah said.

Housing extra animals can get expensive. In addition to all the dogs, the shelter is responsible for three horses from an animal cruelty case. There isn’t room on-site so the shelter is shelling out about $15,000 a year to board them offsite, while the case goes through multiple appeals.  

“It's a huge bite out of our budget,” Darrah said.

People who want to donate to the shelter can go through Friends of the Shelter. Click here for more information.